Cardiff Bound

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Maynooth with tags , , , on April 21, 2018 by telescoper

Just time for a quick post using the airport WIFI to fill some time before my flight leaves from Dublin Airport. Once again on a Saturday morning I was up at 5am to get the 6am bus here from Maynooth. The journey back to Cardiff is far from arduous, but I won’t be sorry when I won’t have to do it every week. Fortunately, term is coming to an end and after teaching finishes I won’t be dictated to by the timetables of Cardiff and Maynooth Universities. And after July I won’t have to do the trip at all!

This morning a large group – I believe the correct collective noun is a murder – of crows gathered to give the bus a sendoff. I did think of Hitchcock’s The Birds but the birds in this case were more interested in rummaging through the rubbish bin than attacking any of us waiting for the bus. Incidentally, it was the anniversary of Daphne Du Maurier’s death on 19th April; she wrote the short story on which that film was based.

Anyway, it’s a lovely sunny morning. Yesterday was a nice day too, both in terms of weather and other things. In the afternoon there was a staff barbecue and an awards ceremony at Maynooth University. There was a big crowd already there when I arrived, a bit late because I’d been at a seminar. Standing at the back I couldn’t really hear the speeches. I didn’t win any awards, of course, but I did get a glass of wine and a beefburger.

On my way home I bumped into the President, Philip Nolan, who is the equivalent of a Vice-Chancellor. To my surprise he mentioned a point I had raised in a recent Faculty meeting about the possibility of Maynooth signing up to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). To my even greater surprise he went on to say that this was going to be in the University’s strategic plan. Good news!

Anyway, I’d better make my way to the gate.  Have a nice day!



Pictures from Post-Planck Cosmology in Pune

Posted in Biographical, Books, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on April 20, 2018 by telescoper

Regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Bonkers) will know that last year I went to the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune (India) for a conference on `Post-Planck Cosmology’. Well, I recently received a copy of the official conference photograph, which I thought I’d share:

There is also an online collection of pictures taken during the talks, from which I have taken the liberty of extracting this picture of me during my talk:

I think this picture has a lot of potential for a caption competition, so please feel free to suggest captions through the comments block!

Melancholy – Johnny Dodds

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on April 20, 2018 by telescoper

Well, it’s fine and sunny today and if the weather doesn’t put a spring in your step, hopefully this will. It’s a lovely old tune and something of a jazz standard called Melancholy, but this is very probably the least melancholy version of it you’ll ever hear. On top of that it’s quite an interesting piece of jazz history, as it features legendary clarinet player Johnny Dodds (who played in King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and later in the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens with Louis Armstrong in the 1920s) as did pianist Lil Hardin, but the rest of the band is from a younger generation, especially Charlie Shavers on trumpet and Teddy Bunn (a much underrated guitarist). The rhythm section has a define taste of the Swing Era rather than New Orleans, but the main thing about this is how well the different styles blend together. Enjoy!

The Parnell Connection

Posted in Beards, Biographical, History with tags , , , , on April 19, 2018 by telescoper

Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891)

Taking a short breather and a cup of coffee in between this morning’s lecture and a forthcoming computer lab session I thought I’d do a quick post following on from a comment on yesterday’s post about an O-level History paper.

I was an undergraduate student at Magdalene College, Cambridge, which just happens to be where 19th century Irish nationalist politician Charles Stewart Parnell (above) studied, although I hasten to add that we weren’t contemporaries. There is an annual Parnell Lecture at Magdalene in his honour; an annual Coles lecture is yet to be established. Parnell is widely remembered here in Ireland too: thereis , for example, a handsome Georgian square in Dublin named after him.

Parnell was one of the most charismatic, capable and influential Parliamentarians of his era, and led the Irish Parliamentary Party at the forefront of moves for Home Rule for Ireland. He also had a splendid beard. His career was cut short by scandal in the form of an adulterous relationship with Kitty (Katherine) O’Shea, whom her husband divorced in 1889 naming Parnell in the case, and whom he married after the divorce. (Kitty, that is, not her husband.) They were not to enjoy life together for long, however, as Parnell died in 1891 of pneumonia in the arms of his wife in 1891 at their home in Brighton (Hove, actually).


An O-Level History Examination from 1979

Posted in Biographical, Education, History with tags , , , , on April 18, 2018 by telescoper

I have in the past posted a few examples of the O- and A-level examinations I took when I was at school. These have been mainly science and mathematics papers as those are relevant to the area of higher education in which I work, and I thought they might be of interest to students past and present.

A few people have emailed me recently to ask if I could share any other examinations, so here are the two History papers I took for O-level in June/July 1979. Can that really have been almost 40 years ago?

These were Papers 5 and 12 out of an unknown number of possible papers chosen by schools. My school taught us exclusively about British and European history from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries; you will observe that in both cases `history’ was deemed to have ended in 1914. It’s possible that some of the other papers paid more attention to the wider world.

I have no idea what modern GCSE history examinations look like, but I’d be interested in any comments from people who do about the style and content!

Have A Nice Day, by Spike Milligan

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on April 17, 2018 by telescoper

‘Help, help,’ said a man. ‘I’m drowning.’
‘Hang on,’ said a man from the shore.
‘Help, help,’ said the man. ‘I’m not clowning.’
‘Yes, I know, I heard you before.
Be patient dear man who is drowning,
You, see I’ve got a disease.
I’m waiting for a Doctor J. Browning.
So do be patient please.’
‘How long, ‘ said the man who was drowning,
‘Will it take for the Doc to arrive? ‘
‘Not very long,’ said the man with the disease,
‘Till then try staying alive.’
‘Very well,’ said the man who was drowning.
‘I’ll try and stay afloat.
By reciting the poems of Browning
And other things he wrote.’
‘Help, help,’ said the man with the disease,
‘I suddenly feel quite ill.’
‘Keep calm.’ said the man who was drowning,
‘Breathe deeply and lie quite still.’
‘Oh dear,’ said the man with the awful disease.
‘I think I’m going to die.’
‘Farewell,’ said the man who was drowning.
Said the man with the disease, ‘goodbye.’
So the man who was drowning, drownded
And the man with the disease passed away.
But apart from that,
And a fire in my flat,
It’s been a very nice day.

by Spike Milligan (1918-2002)


What time is it, Eccles? – 100 Years of Spike Milligan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 16, 2018 by telescoper

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of comedy legend Spike Milligan. I couldn’t resist paying a small tribute to his by
posting this piece, taken from an episode of The Goon Show which was first broadcast in 1957. Spike wrote most of the scripts for this long-running and hugely popular radio show as well as playing several of the characters including, in this clip, the gormless Eccles heard in dialogue with Bluebottle, played by Peter Sellers.

The Goon Show shattered the conventions of radio comedy with its anarchic humour, nonsensical plots, and sheer silliness; it was a direct ancestor of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a debt acknowledged by the Python team. However, the strain of producing weekly scripts for The Goon Show exacted a heavy toll on Spike Milligan who had numerous nervous breakdowns. Not surprisingly, given the rate at which they had to be written, the episodes are uneven in quality but at times Spike Milligan’s comic writing rose to extraordinary heights of genius, as exemplified as this joyfully absurd sequence, which I think is totally brilliant.